In his PAA presidential address and corresponding article in Demography, David Lam (Demography 48:1231–1262, 2011) documented the extraordinary progress of humankind—vis-à-vis poverty alleviation, increased schooling, and reductions in mortality and fertility—since 1960 and noted that he expects further improvements by 2050. However, although Lam briefly covered the problems of global warming and pollution, he did not address several other major environmental problems that are closely related to the rapid human population growth in recent decades and to the progress he described. This commentary highlights some of these problems to provide a more balanced perspective on the situation of the world. Specifically, humans currently are using resources at an unsustainable level. Groundwater depletion and overuse of river water are major problems on multiple continents. Fossil fuel resources and several minerals are being depleted. Other major problems include deforestation, with the annual forest clearing globally estimated to be an area the size of New York State; and species extinction, with rates estimated to be 100 to 1,000 times higher than background rates. Principles of ecological economics are presented that allow an integration of ecology and economic development and better potential for preservation of the world for future generations.

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